With the departure of Offensive Line Coach Alex Mirabal to the palm tree-laden lands of Miami, and the addition of former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Adrian Klemm, it’s surprising the lack of change occurring in the trenches. The offensive line is the least-impacted position group, as each starter posted their intent to stay within seconds of one another on social media. That amount of starting experience will be an essential piece for a brand new coaching dynasty.
During the 2021 season, the first string for the offensive line typically consisted of Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu† George Moore IV† Ryan Walk† Alex Forsyth† Steven Jonesand TJ Bass† Out of all those names, only Moore will not be returning. Ending his seven-year college career, Moore started all but one game this past season. Given Moore’s status as a left-side lineman (guard and tackle) it gives the opportunity for a new starter to establish themselves manning the C and B gap.
Walk became an interchangeable weapon in the trenches, starting nine games overall and moving from right guard to center after Forsyth battled back spasms. However, a knee injury versus Washington put him on the bench for the rest of the season. It should be noted that Walk’s continued leadership on the sidelines despite his injury is a great sign for his upcoming senior season. With a healthy Forsyth, Walk is likely to make a return to guard.
Bass, a consistently top-rated PFF guard and the only Oregon offensive player to earn All-Pac-12 First Team honors last season, will be one of the most exciting trench monsters to watch in 2022. Not only did he secure high praise at his traditional left guard spot, he moved to the outside at left tackle with ease. In 2020, Bass didn’t surrender a single sack and only allowed six pressures. The quickness on his feet and follow through on his blocks show the former Butte College Roadrunner’s raw talent.
When thinking of the leaders in this unit, Forsyth easily joins the previous two as captain of the ship. Forsyth, who sat out four games in 2021 due to back spasms, still earned All-Pac-12 Second Team honors. After he returned to center during the win over Washington and finishing the season strong, it would be hard to see a quarterback taking snaps from anyone else.
The youngest of the starters, Steven Jones returns for his junior season. He typically takes up the right guard position, but is also known to play right tackle. He started all but one game in the 2021 season. Though Jones is a big body at 6-foot-5 and 332 pounds, he struggled with agility after triggering several false starts in the latter half of last season. However, his 2020 PFF grade of 72.2 leaves more than enough faith he’ll come back swinging.
Steven Jones vs. Stanford
Aumavae-Laulu, nicknamed “The Beast,” was the highest-ranked JUCO prospect when the Ducks picked him up in 2019. Before the Alamo Bowl, he declared for the 2022 NFL Draft, presumably as a reaction to former Head Coach Mario Cristobal’s departure from the program. After a few days, he announced that a meeting with Dan Lanning changed his mind. The Beast started 10 games in 2021, including each of the last nine, primarily at right tackle alongside Jones. As well as Jones, he did have a handful of false starts by the end of the season.
Aumavae-Laulu with Alex Miribal.
In the 2021 season, the offensive line saw its fair share of injuries. Two players that swooped in for the empty spots were incoming sophomore Jackson Powers Johnson and junior Dawson Jaramillo† Powers-Johnson will start on defense in the spring, as his defensive line debut in the Alamo Bowl left Lanning with confidence in experimenting on the other side. Powers-Johnson proved himself to be a versatile asset, also earning reps at center and guard. He did sustain two injuries during the season, one versus Ohio State and the other against UCLA.
Dawson Jaramillo vs. UCLA.
Jaramillo swapped in for guard and tackle, typically joining Bass on the left side of the ball. He was hailed as a “Swiss Army Knife” for the unit following the UCLA game. After a missed block that led to a sack during the Ducks’ first meeting against Utah, Jaramillo ceased to see field time. During the 2021 season, some of the young linemen earned little playing time as well, including Faoope Laloulu (16 snaps), Marcus Harper II (16 snaps), and Jaylan Jeffers (10 snaps).
Overall, the amount of talent lying in the core starters will be a huge asset for the Ducks. Klemm will likely make no changes to the lineup, so expect younger players to continue sharpening skills instead of making the pancakes.
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